26 interesting facts about Vietnam

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The most interesting facts about Vietnam, from outstanding natural beauty to one of the most deadly conflicts in history

Interesting facts about Vietnam include the stunning Ha Long Bay
Interesting facts about Vietnam include the stunning Ha Long Bay (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Capital city: Hanoi
Population: 98,721,275
Area: 331,210 sq km
Major languages: Vietnamese, English
Major religions: Atheism, Buddhism
Time zone: UTC+7 (Vietnam Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Vietnam

1. Vietnam is an S-shaped country located in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China, Cambodia and Laos.
– Source: Britannica

A map of Vietnam showing its shape and location in Southeast Asia
Vietnam is S-shaped (Shutterstock)

2. Humans have inhabited northern Vietnam for around 500,000 years. However, it was not until around 7000 BC that hunter-gatherers began to practise basic agriculture.
– Source: Atkinson et al. (2023) Vietnam Travel Guide. Lonely Planet: London

3. The Dong Son culture, renowned for its bronze moko drums, emerged during the 3rd century BC. The Dong Son era also witnessed advances in rice cultivation and the emergence of the Red River Delta as a major agricultural centre.
– Source: Atkinson et al. (2023) Vietnam Travel Guide. Lonely Planet: London

4. The Mekong River runs through Vietnam. At 4,350km, it is the longest river in Southeast Asia, the 7th longest in Asia, and the 12th longest in the world.
– Source: Britannica

The Mekong River in Vietnam
The Mekong River in Vietnam (Shutterstock)

5. Vietnam was occupied by China for more than 1000 years from the 2nd century BC when China conquered the Red Delta to 939 AD, when Ngo Quyen, a Vietnamese commander, defeated the Chinese.
– Source: Britannica

6. From 1859 to 1883 France colonised Vietnam along with the surrounding region which became known as Indochina or French Indochina.
– Source: BBC News, Encyclopedia.com

7. Japan took control of Indochina during World War II. Following the end of the conflict, France tried to regain control. The First Indochina War or Anti-French Resistance War was fought between Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh, and France until 1954.
– Source: BBC News

The iconic photograph of the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém in 1968 (Eddie Adams, AP)

8. In 1954, Vietnam was partitioned into North and South Vietnam. A second conflict followed known as the Vietnam War, the American War or the Second Indochina War. The USA was heavily involved in support of the South against the communist North.
– Source: Britannica

9. By 1976, the USA had been defeated, North and South Vietnam were finally unified and the independent Socialist Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed.
– Source: BBC News

9. The largest city in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City. The city was called Saigon until 1976 when it was renamed in honour of the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.
– Source: Britannica

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City today (Shutterstock)

10. Around 16% of the world’s flora and fauna species can be found in Vietnam which is located in one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas – the Greater Mekong region.
– Source: WWF

11. Vietnam remains one of the world’s few communist states. The only others are China, Cuba, Laos and nominally North Korea (although technically its government doesn’t refer to itself as communist).
– Source: History Channel

12. Vietnam’s flag has a red background with a large yellow star in the centre which reflects its communist history. The red signifies revolution and blood and the five-pointed star represents the five principal classes of the political front – peasants, workers, intellectuals and traders. and soldiers – that unite to build socialism.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

The flag of Vietnam
The flag of Vietnam (Shutterstock)

13. The Vietnam War killed 2-4 million people including at least 2 million Vietnamese civilians, over 1 million Vietnamese soldiers and 58,300 American soldiers.
– Source: Britannica

14. Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil.
– Source: International Coffee Organization

15. Vietnam is the world’s 15th most populous country and Asia’s 8th most populous.
– Source: UN Population Division (World Bank)

16. Motorbikes are everywhere in Vietnam. More than eight-in-ten people own a motorbike in Vietnam with over 45 million registered motorbikes in Vietnam in 2016.
– Source: Pew Research Center, VnExpress

Motorcyclists in Vietnam
Motorcyclists in Vietnam (Shutterstock)

17. The name Vietnam is actually two words. “Viet” – an ethnic group dating to a second century B.C. kingdom and “nam” means “south” – a reference to its location in relation to other Viet kingdoms.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

18. One of the most famous sites in Vietnam is the UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay includes over 1,600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited.
– Source: UNESCO

19. Snake wine is drunk in Vietnam. It often involves the inhumane process of drowning live snakes in alcohol before being bottled.
– Source: National Geographic

Bottles of snake wine in Vietnam
Bottles of snake wine in Vietnam (Shutterstock)

20. It’s possible for snakes to survive in the bottle for months. In 2013, a report surfaced of a Chinese woman who was bitten on the hand after a snake jumped out of a bottle of wine where it had been fermenting for three months.
– Source: BBC Travel

21. Vietnam is home to the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park which has over 104km of natural caves and underground rivers.
– Source: UNESCO

22. Vietnam has had over two decades of consistent growth, matching China as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and has joined the ranks of East Asian ‘tiger’ nations.
– Source: Lonely Planet

23. The world’s largest cave is in Vietnam. Son Doong Cave measures a total of 38.5 million cubic meters. However, a 2019 expedition discovered the cave is connected to another cave, Thung Cave, via an underwater tunnel which will add a further 1.6 million cubic meters to its volume.
– Source: CNN

Son Doong cave
Son Doong Cave (Shutterstock)

24. Water puppetry is popular in Vietnam. The art dates back over 1,000 years to when farmers adapted conventional puppetry onto the water following a large flood.
– Source: Atlas Obscura, Lonely Planet

25. In Vietnam, crossing your fingers is thought to resemble female genitalia and making the gesture is regarded as taboo.
– Source: The Telegraph

26. Vietnam is the world’s largest exporter of cashew nuts. As of 2018, Vietnam exports over 38% of the world’s cashews – worth $2.93 billion.
– Source: Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)

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